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Well, August unfortunately turned out to be a bad month for maintaining our good safety record, while September had no fatal accidents (as of the 25th, as I write this). In a 2-week period between Aug. 18 and Aug. 29th, there were 3 fatal accidents with 5 fatalities. The total count so far this year stands at 5 fatal GA accidents and 12 fatalities. This does not include the Papillion Helicopter crash up in the Grand Canyon back in February; that was a commercial operation.

Fortunately, as far as I can determine at the moment, none of the pilots involved were APA members; only 4 were Arizona-based pilots (those pilots we are capable of reaching with our safety programs); and none (as far as I can determine at the moment) were registered in the WINGS program. Let’s hope that the rest of 2018 remains accident free. Please fly safe!!

gaarms october 2018 one of us is wrong

Ummmm……… Two, one of us is wrong!!!


Fred’s Perspective… 

 GARMIN 700 SERIES AUTOPILOT HEADS UP…

gaarms october 2018 garmin 700 series autopilot heads up 1

The following is a heads up alert as a result of several incidents concerning the new Garmin GFC700 autopilot as recently reported to me (and the FAA). Comments below are in chronological order. Italics are my input/response to the reporting party…

Initial report –

Yesterday was an eventful day. Supposed to give IFR approaches to applicant but did not work out. At cruise flight the 700 Garmin autopilot failed. Using the emergency checklist, turning off the disconnect, circuit breaker and master switch did not accomplish disengaging the autopilot. It went into a dive and took two of us to recover. I declared an emergency and it took two of us to land because it was still engaged. Filed an NTSB report and the FAA is supposed to come on Monday. All the info online says to disconnect but it does not work. How do we let others know about this anomaly in the system?

gaarms october 2018 garmin 700 series autopilot heads up 2

My questions back –

Do you know for sure it was the autopilot??? Could something in the flight control system have failed or stuck, like a jammed/stuck elevator cable or trim cable, or something like that? What mode was the autopilot in when it “failed,” i.e., HDG, NAV, APCH, and was the Altitude hold on or off, etc… When it “dived,” did it stay in that mode? Did it just nose over, or did it spiral down? Did you have rudder control? Elevator control heavy or almost immovable? How about roll control?

Follow up -

We were in straight and level flight and I regret saying this, "let’s try the autopilot." Next thing it dived 20 degrees down, similar to a runaway but not exactly. The heading mode we could use but unable to change attitude mode. Used power to control descent. It took two of us to recover and flew it level for 15 miles for a landing. And it took two of us to land because the extreme nose down motion. The manual trim worked somewhat and the rudders were mushy. We tried everything to disengage and nothing worked, circuit breaker, disconnect button, master switch, electric trim etc. It was frozen. I believe the AP computer is bad. It is a Garmin GFC 700. The CAP is looking into it but right now is unable to duplicate the issue. They will be flying it to Falcon so they can download the Garmin. Apparently, that is the only place where it can be done. The mechanic checked everything and could find nothing to duplicate.

My response back –

WOW!!! That sounds like really one of those days you live right. What type aircraft was this??? Is it one of the new Garmin 700 autopilots?  Installed by whom?? And when? And flight checked by whom? Was it a runaway trim issue? Did the autopilot put you into the dive by rolling the trim?

Question - was this your first flight in this aircraft, or had you flown it before (apparently with no issues then…)

I would sure like to hear much more about this, and I am sure Garmin will too (or maybe not, eh?) I am also pretty sure the FAA will want to take a hard look at the install and circuitry, as should Garmin.

Follow up -

Hi Freddie, just another update for you -

There have been two more incidents like mine in NY and SC. Except the NY plane was unable to control altitude and hit the prop/engine on an emergency landing.

Do you think that some disgruntled employee of Garmin/Cessna did something to the software update that could trigger this dangerous situation? Will keep you up to date.

I am still on the quest to get the government to recognize a flaw in the Garmin GFC 700 autopilot. So far the SDL FSDO has said that Garmin and Cessna have found no solution. But there are still incidents and accidents occurring.

The Air Safety Institute of AOPA said 'they are closely monitoring it to assess what course of action would be appropriate and when.' I guess they are waiting to have a substantial number of deaths and injuries before they decide to pursue.

The Steering Committee recently formed by the FAA to reduce 'loss of control' accidents wrote an article. I challenged the article because nowhere do they have equipment failure in their thoughts of reducing the risk of an accident. Everything is 'pilot error.’ Are there any other organizations who are interested in safety that I should contact about this derelict instrument? Thank you…

A message to our members - I would sure like to hear much more about this, and ask all of you to forward anything you hear, encounter or experience in reference to the Garmin GFC700 autopilot to me via the APA web site or directly at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


True Confessions :  Was that a UFO???               

On another one of my many trips over the years to Oshkosh, back somewhere around 1976 when I was working at the Poughkeepsie Flight Service Station and flight instructing out of the Sky Acres and Stormville airport (which no longer exists), there I was, PIC (and instructing) in the right seat of a Cessna P210 Centurion the local FBO had rented to us at a great price as a favor to put some time on the seldom used (meaning expensive to rent) airplane.  In the left seat there was a newly minted instrument-rated pilot, one of my students (Let’s call him Bob). In the 2nd row were two of my fellow FSS friends, both pilots (let’s call them Dave and Tom), and way back in the 3rd row was another non-pilot friend (George), in charge of the food and drinks packed in the back.

Picture this – there we are, cruising along, IFR at 15,000 feet up over western New York at 3 o’clock in the morning (that’s right, 0300 EST) in beautiful crystal-clear conditions, very dark skies with no moon but lots of stars, on a direct line from Oshkosh to Poughkeepsie, NY. Like most of my long cross country flights, it was a smooth, almost boring flight. The autopilot was dead on and holding altitude like a champ. We were working Cleveland center, but there was not a lot of chatter on the frequency at that time of the morning. It was all quiet in the cockpit as we cruised along, just enjoying the view of all the stars in the sky over western New York.

And then I spotted it! There, a bright star in the sky, at our 12 o’clock high position. “WOW,” I thought, that is really a bright star. I pointed it out to Bob and Dave as a point of interest. And then we noticed it appeared to be moving. “What,” we said, “stars don’t move,” and we must be imagining it. So, the 3 of us watched that star intently, trying to make sense of what we were seeing. YUP, it definitely appeared to be moving as it came towards us very high in the sky. Consensus was that it must be an airliner up at flight level 350 or higher with its lights on. Yup, sure, that made perfect sense to us at the moment.

gaarms october 2018 tue confessions was that a ufo

And then that theory was shattered in an instant! That light – or whatever it was –suddenly made a 90 degree turn to the south, and, for lack of a better definition – at what appeared to be WARP TWO – sped across the sky, across our windshield , across our field of view and out of sight in less than a minute! The 3 of us looked at each other in amazement. HOLY COW, what was that?? It was NOT a falling, or shooting, star or a meteorite: it did not leave a tell-tale trail. It certainly WAS NOT an airliner. We decided it must have been a high altitude military aircraft. We were now convinced we just saw an SR-71 way up there. But, did we really?? Well I said, let’s ask, and I checked in with Cleveland center.

Cessna42P (ficticious): “Cleveland, Centurion 42Papa with a Question”…

CLE Center: “42Papa, go ahead”

Cessna42P: Are you working anything up high and fast that just turned south bound?”

CLE Center: “Negative”

Cessna42P: “Um, OK, well, we just saw a high altitude light that made a turn south and accelerated away pretty fast”.

CLE Center: “Really? Let me check with another sector”

Cessna42P: : “OK”

CLE Center: “42Papa, The other sector says they are not working anything up high” (chuckle chuckle…) Did you guys see a UFO?”

Cessna42P: “NOPE, not us, but it was certainly interesting, whatever it was”

CLE Center: OK, (and with another chuckle) Roger, contact New York, 132.6 (Not the real frequency)”

Cessna42P: New York 32 six, see ya, 42Papa”

Cessna42P: New York, Centurion 42Papa with you at fifteen thousand”

New York Center: 42Papa, radar contact, cleared direct Poughkeepsie”

Cessna42P: 42Papa, direct Poughkeepsie, thanks”

After a couple of minutes, with curiosity still rampant in the cockpit, I decided to ask New York the same question –

Cessna42P: “New York, Centurion 42Papa with a Question”…

New York Center: “42Papa, go ahead”

Cessna42P: Were you working anything up high and fast that just turned south bound a couple of minutes ago?”

New York Center: “Negative. Did you see something?”

Cessna42P: “Well, we just saw a high altitude light that made a pretty sharp turn south and accelerated away pretty fast”.

New York Center: “(Chuckle) Did you guys see a UFO? “(Chuckle chuckle) You want to report a UFO?”

So now both Cleveland and New York Centers are getting a big chuckle out of all this – another wacky GA pilot reporting seeing a UFO, so I decided to up the ante!

Cessna42P: “Well, three of us saw it. How about asking Giant Killer?”

The frequency went quiet. I now had their attention. They now knew I was not a wacky pilot. I had said some magic words that only a few people within the air Traffic control system at that time knew – And he knew I was one of them! The response came back shortly.

New York Center: “42Papa, Giant Killer says don’t ask!”

Cessna42P: “Roger that, thanks”

And not another word was said about the whole thing all the way to Poughkeepsie, but the 3 of us on that flight still reminisce about that flight to this day. It was a great flight and one that lives on in our memories!!! So, I guess it had to be a UFO, because in 1976, SR-71’s did not officially exist!


SAFETY PROGRAMS:

There are a lot of FAASTeam safety programs on the schedule over the next couple of months all around the state, so go to WWW.FAASAFETY.GOV and click on “Seminars” and check them out. You might find one that interests you. Should you desire a particular safety or educational program at your local airport or pilot meeting, simply contact me directly at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or call me at 410-206-3753. The Arizona Pilots Association provides these safety programs at no charge. We can also help you organize a program of your choice, and we can recommend programs that your pilot community might really like.

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